cover image The Christmas Ark

The Christmas Ark

Robert D. San Souci. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-385-24836-5

Aboard the Queen Calafia , two sisters and their mother are making a months-long journey to join their father, who has given up farming to join the hunt for gold in California. The goal is to reach San Francisco by Christmas, but the ``thick, cottony fog'' may delay their arrival. ``Are you sure St. Nicholas can find us at sea?'' asks Sarah. That night, she dreams that Santa arrives in a ``huge ark, blazing with silver light'' and offers the girls an opportunity to fly over the world and pick the Christmas of their choice. While stirring and technically proficient, the paintings here--a palm-lined beach, a lion roaring on an African plain, St. Nick filling stockings--are somewhat static and not up to Daniel San Souci's generally splendid standards. The meandering story seems overlong and bogs down in unnecessary details. Still, the essential spirit of the season shines through, and readers may enjoy this diverting variation on more traditional fare. Ages 6-10. (Nov.)